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Our creative partners #6: Orchestra for the Earth

Waterloo Festival thrives on creative partnerships, on bringing artists and musicians to collaborate with and showcase their wonderful work to our communities in Waterloo, Lambeth and - thanks to the marvels of the internet - elsewhere. In this series, we meet some of our creative partners for 2020.

This week, in the run-up to World Environment Day, we meet Orchestra for the Earth.

Photo: Max Verdoes

Music has a long history as a catalyst for change, and as we face a crisis in the natural world even deeper than coronavirus we believe it has a vital role to play. Orchestra for the Earth is made up of young professional musicians from across the UK, united by a mission to use classical music to inspire a love of nature and shine a spotlight on environmental issues.

Most musicians are freelancers, and the prospect of going ‘back to work’ is far in the future, but we’ve been busy creating a nature-inspired series of online performances for anybody and everybody to enjoy from the comfort of their own home—for free. It’s impossible to play simultaneously over the internet (even the tiniest lag is unworkable), so all these ‘virtual’ performances are recorded separately by each musician and then mixed together. We all miss the irreplaceable feeling of live performance, but in the context of isolation the sense of connection through music is still surprisingly powerful. We hope you find that, too.

Photo: Ellie Winter

We’re delighted to be part of the Waterloo Festival online, and we’ve chosen to record a movement from Mozart’s characteristically cheerful Bassoon Concerto. Mozart loved nature, and had a special affection for his pet starling, which he taught to sing his own tunes. We know this because a manuscript survives on which he had written down his pet’s renditions of his music, circling the wrong notes! But it wasn’t just the bird that learnt Mozart’s tunes: many of the composer’s most popular melodies took inspiration from the starling’s song.

For those of us lucky enough to have access to nature during lockdown, it’s provided an unexpected opportunity to slow down and connect with the living world in a way modern life rarely allows for. If Mozart hadn’t had that opportunity, he wouldn’t have been able to soak up inspiration from nature in the way he did. We hope that this extra time to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature, even just in your own garden or a nearby park, will turn into a motivation to protect it after lockdown.

This is why we’ve chosen to partner with the World Land Trust, and have created a video together with Sir David Attenborough, premiering this Friday, which is World Environment Day. The WLT’s unique and highly effective approach to conservation protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats acre by acre. Poachers and illegal loggers have thrived while the world has been distracted, so the threat to these beautiful but vulnerable animals and their habitats has escalated dangerously. Through a network of partner organisations around the world, WLT funds the creation of reserves and provides permanent protection for ecosystems.

We hope our video acts as a reminder that the natural world we all rely on is still there and still vulnerable, and our ‘virtual’ performance brings a little bit of musical joy to anybody struggling with lockdown life.

Photo: Jakob Koumar

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